The card in the mail is a welcome surprise. Mr G has won a runners’ up prize in the Eat Free for a Year draw run by Alio Restaurant, a competition he entered at the Sydney Food and Wine Fair back in October.
Alio Restaurant is located at the Redfern end of Surry Hills, just away from the main drag of Cleveland and Crown Streets. Inside the vast dining room with a bar area, the décor is modern and minimalist, with dark timber chairs, high back cushioned banquettes and dark brown carpet. Dim lighting with flickering candles on paper covered tablecloths remind you that you are in for intimate yet relaxed dining.
Alio Degustation Menu with matching wines
The prize consists of free matching wines for up to 4 people when you order the 10 course degustation menu by Chef Ashley Hughes. We took the opportunity to invite good friends along to share in the prize. Mr G had previously won another dégustation menu at Restaurant Balzac in Randwick.
Alio hand made grissini, herb bread and olive oil, and 40 month old Reggiano Parmigiano
The dégustation begins with hand made grissini, herb bread and olive oil, and chunks of 40 month old Reggiano Parmigiano. This is accompanied by mixed marinated organic olives, served warm, with chilli, roast garlic and a hint of rosemary.
Mixed marinated organic olives
Next, is the Lentil soup starter – creamy, homely and comforting. This is paired with a slightly sweet Nino Franco, Rustico Prosecco from Valdobbiadene in Italy.
Prosciutto San Daniele with melon and rocket
The staple of antipasti, the Prosciutto San Daniele with melon and rocket is paired with Star Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand which complements the sweetness of the melon.
Citrus cured kingfish with radish and orange dressing paired with La Zona Savagnin, King Valley,Vic
The next dish is light and summery. The citrus cured kingfish is sliced thinly and served with radish and orange dressing. The bitterness of the radish is coupled with the citrus tang and paired with La Zona Savagnin, King Valley in Victoria.
Panfried scallops wrapped in pancetta with spinach and a bagna cauda dressing paired with Vino Bianco Della Casa, Cheshunt, Victoria, Australia
After a significant wait, the panfried scallops wrapped in pancetta with spinach and a bagna cauda dressing are served. The scallops are plump and but their flavour is a little dull on their own. The sauce has a hint of garlic which gives this dish a lift. This course is paired with Vino Bianco Della Casa, Cheshunt, Victoria, Australia.
Potato gnocchi with garlic prawns and cherry tomato with Juniper Crossing Tempranillo, Margaret River WA
The seafood aroma from the potato gnocchi with garlic prawns and cherry tomato seduces the senses. The gnocchi are soft and pillowy, the bisque-like sauce is rich and flavoursome. Paired with a Juniper Crossing Tempranillo, Margaret River from Western Australia, This is by far the favourite dish, my only comment is that I would have liked an encore.
Roasted lamb rack with marinated beetroot and dragoncello salsa with The Musician Cabernet. Shiraz, Coonawarra SA
At first glance, the roasted lamb rack with marinated beetroot and dragoncello salsa looks a little too pink and for my liking. I have an aversion to eating bloody meat but decide to be adventurous. The lamb is very tender and the reduction with hints of star anise has all of us voting this dish as our favourite.
The spicy notes of the Musician Cabernet Shiraz from South Australia’s Coonawarra are a good complement to this star dish.
Coconut and lime sorbet, paired with Beni Di Batasiolo Moscato, D’Asti, Piedmonte, Italy
The palate cleanser is a silky smooth Coconut and lime sorbet, light and refreshing and surprisingly not too sweet. This is well paired with Beni Di Batasiolo Moscato D’Asti from Piedmonte in Italy which has a nice fizz on the tongue.
Poached peach with champagne granita paired with Pirramimma Late Harvest Riesling, McLaren Vale SA
The Poached peach with champagne granita is an elegant dessert to finish on, paired with the lingering sweetness of the Pirramimma Late Harvest Riesling from McLaren Vale in South Australia.
The dégustation offers good value at $85, ($120 with matching wines). The portions are reasonably sized; the dishes are flavoursome and well paired with wines from Australia, Italy and New Zealand. The noise levels in the dining room are acceptable, no doubt aided by the carpet and cushioned banquettes.
While the dishes and wine pairings worked well together, the dégustation itself wasn’t well paced. Some dishes were served too quickly while our wine glasses from the previous course were still half full. Others, like the scallop course arrived a good 20 minutes later.
Service was limited to serving and clearing plates with no introduction to the dishes or the wines. The two waitstaff serving our table were not engaging and they were both uninformed about the dishes when we queried the ingredients of the bagna cauda. It may have been an off night with new staff but I expect a dégustation to include more than just good food and wine pairings. A side serving of interaction and enthusiasm would have made it a more memorable experience.
Overall, it was an enjoyable evening in modern surrounds with a relaxed ambiance. Next time, I would be keen to try individual dishes from the menu such as the Pappardelle with braised duck and chestnuts.
5 Baptist Street
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